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Education and Workforce Alignment, the Utah Way

Kimberlee Carlile
By Kimberlee Carlile Director, Talent Ready Utah

In 2015, Utah announced a program that would have a lasting impact on the state by bringing industry and education together in a new way. Through Utah Aerospace Pathways, industry and education leaders have built a program that increases awareness of the aerospace industry and, in turn, increases the talent pipeline to that industry.

Utah Aerospace Pathways allows high school students to participate in training courses both at their schools and at local technical or community colleges. The students then have the opportunity to participate in an externship with one of the many participating companies.

Participating companies include Albany Engineered Composites, Hexcel, Janicki Industries, Boeing, Orbital ATK, Parker Aerospace and MSC Aerospace. These organizations have been critical to the success of Utah Aerospace Pathways. Without industry leading the discussion, the program would not have come together as well as it did.

Another key success factor was industry working closely with educators to write the curriculum and make sure the skills being taught connected with the skills needed for entry-level jobs. Utah Aerospace Pathways was piloted in two school districts and has since expanded to four additional Utah school districts. Participating students are pre-pared for a career in an industry that is growing and expanding across the U.S.

Adult learners also have the opportunity to be trained through Utah Aerospace Pathways. Specifically, incumbent workers can be retrained in a particular skill or expertise. Post-secondary institution partners facilitate this training.

Once the Utah Aerospace Pathways structure was well established, the program was quickly replicated in other industries, such as diesel technology, life sciences and tech firms. All these programs provide opportunities for high school students as well as adult learners looking for a path forward in a new career or stepping back into the pathway for a different opportunity.

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Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert with students in the Diesel Tech Pathways Program. (All images provided by Talent Ready Utah)

The Diesel Technician Pathway, for example, focuses on the skills needed to become a diesel technician. This pathway takes a bit longer than the others; typically, high school students take about one year after high school to finish the program. Utilizing the stackable credentials model and the work-based learning opportunities model for students, this program doubled in size in the second year. The program piloted in two school districts and has now reached the maximum class capacity of 60 students in those districts. In addition, it has continued to grow and expand to include other Utah school districts.

At the end of each school year, the Diesel Technician partners host a signing day for students. They encourage these students to sign a letter of commitment to continue their training in the pathway at one of the participating technical colleges. Some of the diesel technician pathway partners include Cummins Rocky Mountain, Kilgore, Komatsu Equipment Sales, Kenworth Sales Co., Geneva Rock, UTA and others.

The Medical Innovation Pathways program follows the same model. High school students get the opportunity to be involved in the life sciences industry, which is growing in Utah. Working with partners such as Edwards Lifesciences, Merit Medical, Nelson Labs, Stryker and others, this program offers opportunities for students to focus on medical device or laboratory testing.

At the end of the pilot year, this pathway was the fastest growing as it expanded to five additional locations across the state. The pilot school districts help build the pathway and work out any issues. Pilot school districts often already have courses and curriculum in place and benefit from being located close to industry partners. This allows students to participate easily in the work-based learning component of the program. Once the pathway has been in place for a full school year, it usually expands to include additional school districts across Utah. These expansions are implemented at the need of industry.

Utah was able to leverage the success of these pathway programs to receive additional support and funding through the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Work-Based Learning Policy Academy. Utah was one of six states that received funding to scale work-based learning. This partnership with the NGA helped to leverage the pathway programs and scale them with our partners across the state. Through this partnership, the state created Talent Ready Utah, which was announced by Governor Gary R. Herbert in his 2017 state of the state address.

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Governor Herbert announcing Utah Aerospace Pathways. Community, education and industry leaders attended to show support for the program.

Talent Ready Utah brings together industry, education and government partners—including Governor Herbert—to provide support and resources to build and expand industry and educational partnerships in the state. Talent Ready Utah also has a board of directors that brings together the three educational system leaders in Utah: public education (K-12), technical education and higher education. It also includes representatives from state organizations such as the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Department of Workforce Services, the Governor’s Education Advisor and the Salt Lake Chamber.

Additional members of the board include two state legislators and four CEOs who represent four different industries in Utah. As the program is designed to meet the needs of industry, their feedback is invaluable.

Through Talent Ready Utah, local communities also receive funding and resources to support partnerships between local companies and educational entities that create workforce development programs. In Utah, the Department of Workforce Services provides funding for Talent Ready Utah grants, which are awarded annually to local com-munities that implement workforce training programs. The program has been in place since 2009.

All of the pathway programs previously outlined were started through a Talent Ready Utah grant, which has helped many programs meet workforce needs in their areas.

This collaborative approach has been the cornerstone of Talent Ready Utah. Seeing companies come together, even competitors, and partner with education to create programs for the good of the citizens in Utah is what it’s all about.

About the Author: Kimberlee Carlile is the director of Talent Ready Utah, Governor Gary Herbert’s initiative to increase industry and educational partnerships in Utah. The Talent Ready Utah Center resides in the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).

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